A new partnership between the city of Memphis and a Collierville horse barn will give kids a unique opportunity to learn about and compete on horses for free.
It's an experience that typically costs thousands of dollars a year, but to McKrell Baier of Memphis, the woman behind this new program, the chance to pass on her passion for horses to kids who normally wouldn't get the chance is priceless.
Baier is a name that most everyone in the Memphis equestrian circle knows. She's an accomplished rider and trainer, but she's not hanging her hard hat on just those two talents.
Baier has started the "Lucille Hawkins Memorial Urban Equestrian Program" at her Collierville-based hose barn, helping extend an invitation into the horse world to all Memphis-area children.
"The urban equestrian program is basically a way to expose urban children who may not otherwise have the chance to be around horses and be outside in a professional setting," she said.
The program, which is a team effort between Baier and the city of Memphis Division of Parks and Neighborhoods, will be free to children ages 6 to 18, who are enrolled in school.
It's scheduled to start first at the Whitehaven Community center in Mid-June.
Before the kids ever climb into the saddle, they have to prove their dedication.
"There will be an introductory program, a two-month program where there's a combination of classroom work, like worksheets and lectures and movies," she said.
Once they pass the introductory coursework, they'll continue their learning sessions at Baier's barn, the Southern Blues Equestrian Center.
"Those kids that show a real interest and work ethic through the two-month introductory program will be able to stay on with us as students indefinitely at no cost to themselves," Baier said.
That means, they'll be able to learn to ride and even go on to compete with their equipment, lessons, and transportation provided for free.
It also means Baier's staff will be volunteering their services; time that could be dedicated to earning money. But the Memphian says, the chance to pass on the gift of horsemanship to those who normally wouldn't have the opportunity is worth it.
"For me to be able to really feel like I'm part of Memphis, which is the city I'm from and I love," she said. "I love all aspects of Memphis. To be able to join those worlds, it's an honor to me to get to do that."
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